High-ranking Democrat calls for chairman’s ouster

A high-ranking Democratic official called Friday for his party’s chairman to step down after a spate of legal concerns came to light.

David Worley, a former chairman of the state party, said Mike Berlon’s legal woes tarnish the party’s image and hamper its abilities to raise funds. He said he’ll ask the Democratic Party of Georgia’s executive committee, a group of roughly 30, to recommend Berlon’s ouster at a June 6 meeting. A vote by the full panel of about 300 board members could follow.

Berlon was accused in a Gwinnett County lawsuit this week of failing to distribute nearly $1 million from a trust he created for a friend and his son. It came after the State Bar of Georgia suspended Berlon’s legal license over a separate matter and the state’s top court accepted his request to be reprimanded for violating legal ethics rules involving another client.

Given the lawsuit, Worley asked, “why would a donor give a dime to the Democratic Party?”

He added, “This cripples the ability of the party to do its job.”

Berlon declined to comment Friday, but a day earlier he mounted a personal defense.

“I’m doing the best job I can as chair of the Democratic Party, and my private practice has nothing to do with that,” Berlon told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I still have two years on my term and I intend to serve it out.”

The Gwinnett lawsuit was filed this week by Raymond Hines, who said he and his son pumped about $960,000 into the trust, but that they never heard back from Berlon when they questioned where their money was. Berlon said the complaint was the result of a “miscommunication” and that he hoped to finalize a settlement with Hines next week.

Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson said Democrats are taking the matter seriously.

“We’ll be looking at that over the next week or two and find out if there’s anything that can be a concern to the party,” he said.

Posted: 4:40 p.m. Friday, May 24, 2013
By Greg Bluestein- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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